How is it then with Poles’ passion for traveling? Do we like to travel?
Yes, I think that after many years of isolation, this passion has evolved. We must say, that we are a courageous nation, one that’s able to go for all the marbles. This is an important trait, favored by travels. I am sure that hadn’t it been for the Partitions of Poland, Poles would have played a larger role in discovering new lands or conquering poles.
What helps us meet interesting people on the road?
Being open to other people is surely important, as well as having that particular kind of sensitivity and curiosity to the world and to cultures that are new to us. When we are ready for what might be coming our way, we give ourselves a chance to establish valuable friendships. Tolerance is very important too because on the road we meet people who are completely different from us, people of different customs, of different ethical rules, and it is important not to be afraid of those differences. Learning languages facilitates that, and I don’t mean knowing them perfectly – knowing them on a communicative level will suffice. It’s important not to be afraid of using that language, not to have any complexes. We have a beautiful and unique history and as Poles, we have nothing to be ashamed of.
Have you ever met a Pole on the road who became really imprinted in your memory?
During my travels I’ve had a chance to meet many outstanding Poles – among them a female pilot in Australia, our countrymen on Barbados, or on the top of Mount Kosciuszko. I tended to encounter Polonia in the most exotic places of the world: in Mumbai, Buenos Aires, Sydney, Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal. There were many of such meeting and they were all important to me. Kinga Choszcz, a traveler and reporter, made a big impression on me . We met during a wonderful exhibition “Earth From Above”. Not long afterwards Kinga died in Africa from malaria. My last meeting with Artur Hajzer definitely became engraved in my memory too. We talked about our successes and failures, about our companies. It became apparent we had much in common and plenty to talk about. Shortly afterwards Artur died on Gasherbrum in Karakoram.
Do Poles living abroad always gladly embrace those who are just passing through?
I think every Pole living abroad misses being in touch with their homeland, hence they are always ready to meet and talk with the countrymen they meet on their path. During my expeditions I often experienced incredible help from Polonia – for example in Canada, when Stanisław Stolarczyk helped us a lot, or in New York, where Jurek Majcherczyk welcomed us to his home.
What’s the easiest way to find common ground with a newly met stranger?
Common ground is the easiest to find when we touch emotions, experiences, and problems that we share. It’s important to listen with humility and tolerance and to just be together.
What are your expectations with respect to the Pawel Edmund Strzelecki Award?
I think it’s a good occasion to examine the question of our modern emigration and to find out how we handle separation and homesickness. It will also help us to bring Polonia closer to us. It is a very interesting contest and I’m happy to be one of the jurors.